Blog with James Hooper from 1.30pm.
We had a good laugh at Panthers boss Brian Fletcher telling the NRL the Brisbane Broncos can’t play a preliminary final at Suncorp Stadium.
Why not? They finished second throughout the regular season and have earned the right to host it given they beat Melbourne in week one of the finals.
The Storm have played preliminary finals in Melbourne when they’ve earned the right.
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It’s not like the Panthers struggle at Accor Stadium either. They’ve won two preliminary finals at Sydney Olympic Park previously and last year’s grand final at the venue.
Dating back to the beginning of 2018 the Panthers have won eight out of 11 games at Accor.
So let’s call it for what it is — it’s purely designed to agitate the Brisbane Broncos.
There’s a reason Fletcher has presided over so much success at the Panthers, because he understands how the game works on and off the field.
His carefully-aimed barb at the Broncos is purely designed to agitate one of the Panthers’ biggest rivals.
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Week two of the finals produced some cracking rugby league with the big-game nous of Cameron Munster proving too much for an extremely brave Sydney Roosters on Friday night.
Given the rivalry between these two clubs it was only fitting the game went right down to the final couple of minutes.
As good as the Storm were you get the feeling the Panthers have got their measure given how brutal and physical the Panthers forward pack is.
Penrith’s pack is good a pack as the Brisbane Broncos side of the late 1990s and early 2000s when it was Shane Webcke, Gorden Tallis, Petero Civoniceva, Brad Thorn and Tonie Carroll.
If the Panthers can become the first side since the Parramatta Eels in 1981, ‘82 and ‘83 to win three straight premierships then they enter the conversation against the best Broncos forward packs.
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The refereeing error was impossible to miss on Friday night.
Of course referee Ashely Klein made an absolute howler of a decision but the reality is the Roosters were still gritty enough to give themselves every chance of winning the game.
It will probably cost Klein the chance of officiating this weekend’s preliminary finals when the Panthers play the Storm on Friday night and then the Broncos host the Warriors on Super Saturday.
The Warriors opening 15 minutes against Newcastle was as good as we’ve ever seen them play with the forward pack of Addin Fonua-Blake, Mitch Barnett, Marata Niukore and Tohu Harris simply unrelenting.
They’ll travel to Brisbane full of confidence and it looks a genuine 50/50 contest.
Most of the pressure will be on the Broncos at home in front of a sold out Suncorp Stadium.
Panthers boss Fletcher knows this all too well and has timed his spray at the NRL to perfection.
What were your likes of dislikes from week two of the finals?
Blog with Hoops from 1.30pm below. If you can’t see it, click here.